Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Let Us Reason, Gleason!

“Many have recognized the warning against ‘sinning willfully’ in Hebrews 10:26 as an allusion to the defiant sin of Numbers 15:30-31 and the presumptuous sin of Deuteronomy 17:12. The word ‘willfully’ (ekousios) denotes the deliberate intent to disregard God’s law. This is illustrated in the context of Numbers 15 with the example of the man found picking up sticks on the Sabbath (vv. 32-36). Since his action was a clear violation of the Sabbath law, the penalty was severe: ‘the person shall be cut off,’ that is, ‘put to death’ (Exod. 31:14-15). In the warning of Hebrews, the author clearly has this physical penalty in mind because he mentions in the following verse the need for ‘two or three witnesses’ (Heb. 10:28) to confirm a capital offense (cf. Deut. 17:6).Far from a public repudiation of belief in Christ, the sin in view denotes any deliberate act of covenant unfaithfulness, including the Old Testament context even the seemingly harmless act of picking up sticks on the Sabbath. The gravity of the sin is determined by the defiant attitude with which it is committed. However, the penalty is not eternal damnation but rather physical punishment resulting in death” (Randall Gleason, “A Moderate Reformed View,” from “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, pages 358-359).

Once again, I’m back to involve Gleason’s exegesis. I’ve done a post on Gleason (just posted although written several days ago) and will do more posts in the near future.

Gleason’s exegesis on the spiritual condition of the Exodus generation is wonderful. He makes it clear that by using certain words in Scripture, the author (traditionally believed to be Moses) reveals that the Exodus Generation was saved when they came out of Egypt; and it wasn’t just a PHYSICAL salvation—it was a SPIRITUAL one as well…

Tonight, though, I’m back to tackle other “not-so-good” parts of Gleason’s exegesis. Here’s a tip about moderate Calvinists: moderate Calvinists are more “Arminian” in their exegesis than they’d like to believe—until they arrive at the issue of eternal security. When they get to eternal security, they ally with Calvinists, although, when it comes to matters of election and atonement, they disagree completely. I’ve already tackled J. Matthew Pinson’s edited book entitled “Four Views on Eternal Security.” We’ve seen Norman Geisler’s exegesis, and how he twists Scripture to affirm his position. Gleason in Bateman’s book on Hebrews is no different. No matter how impressive the exegesis is (or isn’t), though, all Moderate Calvinists give themselves away when it comes to the issue of unconditional eternal security. They will affirm unconditional security at all costs—even if the exegesis doesn’t support it.

Gleason notes in the quote above that the issue of “sinning willfully” in Hebrews chapter 10 refers to the Mosaic Law—those who disobeyed willfully, intentionally, deliberately were stoned to death; and all of Israel had to play a role in the stoning. However, when he gets to verse 28, he writes,

“In the warning of Hebrews, the author clearly has this physical penalty [from the Mosaic Law] in mind because he mentions in the following verse the need for ‘two or three witnesses’ (Heb. 10:28) to confirm a capital offense (cf. Deut. 17:6)…” (Gleason, from “Four Views On The Warning Passages in Hebrews,” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, page 359).

Gleason’s reasoning of Hebrews 6 (with Hebrews 10) is that both passages pertain to physical penalties for deliberate sin. He believes this is so because of the references to the Old Testament Mosaic Law. However, what about the following verses of Hebrews 10?

28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[e] says the Lord.[f] And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”[g] 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28-31, New King James Version)

The punishment of verse 29 is “much worse” than the punishment of verse 28 (which is the physical punishment of the Mosaic Law). If the punishment is WORSE than a physical penalty, what else could it be but eschatological judgment?

In his section on “Nature of the Judgment,” he attempts to rebut the Classical Arminian view of eternal judgment:

“When speaking of final judgment, Jesus warns of the ‘unquenchable fire of hell’ (Matt. 5:22; 18:9; Mark 9:43-48), ‘eternal fire’ (Matt. 18:8; 25:41), and ‘eternal punishment’ (Matt. 25:46). Similarly, other New Testament authors speak of ‘eternal destruction’ (2 Thess. 1:9) and ‘punishment of eternal fire’ (Jude 7). In light of the frequent use of the term ‘eternal’ (aionios) throughout Hebrews (5:9; 6:2; 9:12, 14-15; 13:20), its absence in the warning passages is significant, particularly if the author intended to warn his readers against the finality of judgment in the life to come. Final judgment mentioned in Hebrews 9:27 occurs after death (‘it is appointed for men to die once and after this [comes] judgment’) and therefore should be distinguished from the immediate threat the readers ‘see…drawing near’ in their present circumstances (10:25)” (361).

Gleason once again, however, still has questions he cannot answer. Go back to Hebrews 6. In verse 8, the writer talks about the land that drinks the rain but bears only thorns and thistles has only one consequences: “whose END is to be burned” (Heb. 6:8). Then, in verse 9, the writer states, “but beloved, we are confident of better things…that accompany SALVATION.” In verse 11, the writer states, “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence…UNTIL THE END.” The question is, “What END is being discussed here? If the end of time as we know it, if the judgment, is not being discussed, what “end” in time are we dealing with? Hebrews 6:12 emphasizes how important it is that the congregation “inherit the promises.” What “promises” are being discussed? And how do they connect with the end? Surely, then, we are talking about more than immediate punishment for their current slothfulness. Here we find that salvation is an important issue and is in discussion in Hebrews 6.

In Hebrews 9, however, we find that the writer reveals the “promises” to us. He discusses Christ as follows:

“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called MAY RECEIVE THE PROMISE OF THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE” (Heb. 9:15, NKJV).

So when we read about “the end” and “the promises,” the writer is not speaking of an earthly inheritance/ punishment in the immediate future, but rather, what will come to pass at the end of time as we know it—the judgment before the eschaton.

At the end of Hebrews 9, the writer discusses eschatological judgment, as Gleason notes in his quote. However, we see that salvation is what Christ will give when He returns:

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. TO THOSE WHO EAGERLY WAIT FOR HIM He will appear a second time, apart from sin, FOR SALVATION” (Heb. 9:27-28, NKJV).

Once again, the end of time is in view. Here we see that everyone will be judged in the end; but for those who love Christ, who “eagerly wait for Him,” He will appear to give “salvation.” Here, the word “salvation” doesn’t have the word “eternal” in front of it; yet and still, we all know what “salvation” is in view—and it isn’t just a PHYSICAL one, either…

In Hebrews 10:25, we are told to be busy “exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” What “Day” is being spoken of here? It is a day in the future, for it is a “Day APPROACHING.” This is a future day being discussed. What else could it mean but eschatological judgment?

If one looks at the verses following verse 25, we can see that there will be a “certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation” (v. 27), and the Day itself will be a time in which “the Lord will judge His people” (v.30). This is the day when God’s people will stand before Him and be judged for their deeds; it sounds a lot like 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul says that we will all stand before “the judgment seat of Christ.” In Hebrews 10:34, the congregation is said to have “a better and an enduring possession.” The possession of verse 34 is “better” than what? The “goods” which had been taken away from them; in other words, their “earthly” and “material” possessions. The only possession better than an earthly inheritance is a heavenly one!

Last but not least, verse 37 is interesting in and of itself:

“ ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming WILL COME and WILL NOT TARRY.”

Notice the future tenses with “will come” and “will not tarry”? This is telling us of a future event. The New King James Version references Luke 18:8 for this verse. Let’s read what it says:

“I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Jesus here is talking of a future day (“will He find faith”). Looking back at Hebrews 10:37, we see that the “He” referenced is the Lord Jesus. And it says He is coming in a future day. So all the references given point to a judgment day in the future. Unlike Gleason’s analysis, the Hebrews text itself does not point to a present day of judgment—or a physical penalty.

As I said earlier, Randall Gleason is an example of a typical Moderate Calvinist. Moderate Calvinists always seem to have good exegesis, but affirm the WRONG conclusions! Gleason’s exegesis here in Hebrews 10 is all over the place—but that’s not because Gleason is not aware of the truth. Gleason writes his exegesis on chapter 10 the way he does because it’s the only way to dodge responsibility for his conclusion. If the truth were told, Gleason couldn’t affirm the text as presenting CONDITIONAL eternal security, while holding to UNCONDITIONAL security and still have a solid justification for his personal presupposition.

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